A man was arrested moments ago by U.S. Border Patrol agents just outside the Oberlin Municipal Court.
Police were called to the scene to assist with “a violent fugitive.” Agents there said the man was “here illegally,” indicating that he is an undocumented immigrant.
Local police weren’t notified in advance that agents planned to make an arrest, according to interim chief Mike McCloskey.
Judge Thomas Januzzi has confirmed the man was on the docket for this afternoon.
We are making contact with a customs spokesperson.
Members of the arrestee’s family declined to comment.
We’ll post updates as they are available.
UPDATE: Naranbaatar Ganbaatar, 30, was charged with first-degree misdemeanor assault on Feb. 15 by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Free on $1,000 bond, he was going to a 2 p.m. pretrial hearing.
UPDATE: Prosecutor Frank Carlson dropped the assault charge against Ganbaatar today, citing a jurisdictional issue. In a filing with the court, he said the alleged offense took place on a bus that later stopped at the Vermilion Turnpike Plaza and it wasn’t clear where the incident actually happened. Ganbaatar, of California, allegedly went seat to seat and struck a stranger in the head without provocation.
The document said “he was picked up outside the court by immigration authorities. It is not clear what will happen to him at this juncture.”
McCloskey, in a follow-up call, said community service officer Henry Wallace was in a marked car and pulled into the parking lot shared by the court and police station when he was flagged down by federal agents. They warned they were going to approach the suspect. He was asked to stand by.
Arrests of defendants arriving at the court are not uncommon, he said.
“It’s not uncommon for even the municipal court to let us know that someone is there for a court appearance and has an outstanding warrant for another jurisdiction,” he said.
However, the practice has come under fire during the national debate over immigration policy.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye complained about federal agents making arrests at state courts, saying it erodes the public’s confidence in the justice system.
“Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws,” she told U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kell in a letter.
Ganbaatar’s arrest in Oberlin is notable, coming just weeks after city council — which meets in the court’s chambers — took a formal stand on immigration.
“The city of Oberlin reaffirms its commitment to welcome persons and families of all backgrounds and nationalities, including those who have entered the United States as refugees fleeing war and terror in other countries,” said new language unanimously added to a 2009 resolution on noncitizen rights.
At the time, McCloskey said he doesn’t want anyone, regardless of citizenship, to feel they cannot seek help: “Our attitude in relation to this issue is, when people call the police department for help, they shouldn’t be concerned regarding their immigration status. That’s not our primary mission.”
The council resolution emphasized that no city service can be denied on the basis of citizenship. City workers will not ask any crime victims, witnesses, or others who approach with requests for assistance about their status.
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